For the first time in its history, the Premier league took an extended pause and sat dormant while international soccer took the focus for the World Cup. How would teams and managers navigate the start to a second mini-season? What impact would this enforced break have on the teams around the county?

Turns out, very little.

No change at the top

As the start of the new mini-season took shape, it became clear that what was true before the World Cup remains to be true after it.

At the top of the table Arsenal continued to look impressively reliable, their consistency going against the usual doubts about a flakey Arsenal team who’ve plenty of recent experience of falling away from the top.

Their draw against Newcastle – an unexpected first versus third encounter – represents their first dropped points at home this season and underlined the fact that this is an Arsenal side to take seriously.

Their opponents that night have reaffirmed their case as top four contenders and retained the scoring ability of Miguel Almiron. The Paraguayan winger netted for the ninth time this season as Newcastle look to make themselves at home among the league’s elite.

The league’s top scorer, Erling Haaland, continues to break records, just as he did all those weeks ago. Manchester City’s Norwegian striker has already reached the 20 goal milestone for the reigning champions in just 14 games. The previous record was achieved in 21 games.

If it weren’t for the Norwegian, we may be hearing a lot more about Harry Kane’s impressive goal tally. The England captain looks like he’s put his World Cup woes behind him to continue to drag his Tottenham side into Champions League contention.

What will frustrate fans of the North London club is that their habit of conceding first has shown little sign of changing since the restart. Are Kane’s goals going to be enough to cover up the cracks for the remaining five months of competition?

Premier League return does not stop three upstart sides

The three teams who’ve arguably performed strongest this season – Fulham, Brighton and Brentford – continue to impress with a neat blend of sharp management and shrewd signings.

Brentford once again proved that on their day they can beat anyone. Their win over Liverpool can be added to their scalps of the two Manchester clubs to get an idea of just how well they’re adapting to life in the Premier League in their second season.

Brighton were subject to the league’s biggest managerial shift before the break when Graham Potter left to take up the reins at Chelsea. Any fears that this would herald the beginning of the end for the club have been erased with their continued development under Roberto De Zerbi. Is it harsh to suggest that he’s even made them a more efficient, higher scoring side? Certainly not if you take a look at the stats.

In Aleksandar Mitrovic newly promoted Fulham have one of the strongest strikers in the league, a must for any team looking to survive the step up. Both he and the rest of their team have made the transition seem far easier than they have done at previous attempts. Willian looks a player revived, Tim Ream is having a season few saw coming and in Joao Palhinha they have one of the true breakout stars of the season so far.

“Big Six” clubs not jumping back into action

Heavyweights Chelsea and Liverpool would have hoped for a change in form and fortune following the break but both are still succumbing to their early season failings.

After going as far as they could in all competitions last season, Liverpool continue to look like a side fighting fatigue and battling to re-energise and re-focus. Unconvincing wins against Aston Villa and Leicester failed to banish fans’ fears before the defeat against Brentford confirmed them. There’s also a common belief that the recent signing of Dutch forward Cody Gakpo fails to fully address the side’s real areas of concern.

Manchester United’s favorable run of fixtures has seen them capitalize on Marcus Rashford’s rich vein of form to banish their early season blues and land themselves a top four spot. Despite his constant presence in the World Cup, Harry Maguire seems to have fallen even further in the pecking order with Eric Ten Hag even preferring to use Luke Shaw as a makeshift center back than trust the £80m man. It’s a similar story for Jadon Sancho as two of United’s biggest ever signings continue to spend their time on the bench. How they respond looks set to shape their futures at the club.

New manager shake up

How best to judge those sides whose owners rolled the dice and opted for managerial changes just ahead of the break?

In Unai Emery and Julen Lopetegui, Aston Villa and Wolves both opted for established continental managers who could easily find themselves at some of Europe’s more storied clubs. As it stands it looks to be a choice that’s working well for the two Midlands outfits.

The same can’t quite be said for Southampton and their decision to favour youth over experience by bringing in Nathan Jones. Time may well be on his side but he’ll need to address his side’s run of defeats if he’s going to have any hope of keeping the club in the league.

His first chance to prove doubters wrong will come against Frank Lampard’s Everton. Whoever loses that is sure to feel the ire of their supporters louder than ever.